BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA CHAPTER XIX

Continuation—Concerning the real object which, it is probable, Mr. Wordsworth had before him in his critical preface—Elucidation and application of this. It might appear from some passages in the former part of Mr. Wordsworth's preface, that he meant to confine his theory of style, and the necessity of a close accordance with the actual language of men, to those particular subjects from low and rustic life, which by way of experiment he had purposed to naturalize as a new species in our English poetry. But from the train of argument that follows; from the reference to Milton; and from the spirit of his critique on Gray's sonnet; those sentences appear to have been rather courtesies of modesty, than actual limitations of his system. Yet so groundless does this system appear on a close examination; and so strange and overwhelming [70] in its consequences, that I cannot, and I do not, believe that the poet did ever himself adopt it in the unqualified sense, in which his expressions have been understood by others, and which, indeed, according to all the common laws of interpretation they seem to bear. What then did he mean? I apprehend, that in the clear perception, not unaccompanied with disgust or contempt, of the gaudy affectations of a style which passed current with too many for poetic diction, (though in truth it had as little pretensions to poetry, as to logic or common sense,) he narrowed his view for the time; and feeling a justifiable preference for the language of nature and of good sense, even in its humblest and least ornamented forms, he suffered himself to express, in terms at once too large and too exclusive, his predilection for a style the most remote possible from the false and showy splendour which he wished to explode. It is possible, that this predilection, at first merely comparative, deviated for a time into direct partiality. But the real object which he had in view, was, I doubt not, a species of excellence which had been long before most happily characterized by the judicious and amiable Garve, whose works are so justly beloved and esteemed by the Germans, in his remarks on Gellert, from which the following is literally translated. "The talent, that is required in order to make, excellent verses, is perhaps greater than the philosopher is ready to admit, or would find it in his power to acquire: the talent to seek only the apt expression of the thought, and yet to find at the same time with it the rhyme and the metre. Gellert possessed this happy gift, if ever any one of our poets possessed it; and nothing perhaps contributed more to the great and universal impression which his fables made on their first publication, or conduces more to their continued popularity. It was a strange and curious phaenomenon, and such as in Germany had been previously unheard of, to read verses in which everything was expressed just as one would wish to talk, and yet all dignified, attractive, and interesting; and all at the same time perfectly correct as to the measure of the syllables and the rhyme. It is certain, that poetry when it has attained this excellence makes a far greater impression than prose. So much so indeed, that even the gratification which the very rhymes afford, becomes then no longer a contemptible or trifling gratification." [71] However novel this phaenomenon may have been in Germany at the time of Gellert, it is by no means new, nor yet of recent existence in our language. Spite of the licentiousness with which Spenser occasionally compels the orthography of his words into a subservience to his rhymes, the whole FAIRY QUEEN is an almost continued instance of this beauty. Waller's song GO, LOVELY ROSE, is doubtless familiar to most of my readers; but if I had happened to have had by me the Poems of Cotton, more but far less deservedly celebrated as the author of the VIRGIL TRAVESTIED, I should have indulged myself, and I think have gratified many, who are not acquainted with his serious works, by selecting some admirable specimens

and cannot conceive how indeed he could have expressed such thoughts otherwise without loss or injury to his meaning. But in truth our language is. particularly rich in compositions distinguished by this excellence. Troilus wol dey! And thus he drove a daie yet forth or twey. which is now mute. Let the reader then only adopt the pronunciation of the poet and of the court. And hithir home I came whan it was eve. "And after this forth to the gate he wente.") what could we hear more natural. than the following stanzas from Chaucer's TROILUS AND CRESEIDE. And up and doun there made he many' a wente. replete with every excellence of thought. and from the first dawn of poetry ever has been. which we expect or desire in the poetry of the milder muse. or seemingly more unstudied. And to himselfe ful oft he said. til I maie sene her efte in Troie. Anothir time imaginin he would That every wight. And here I dwel. in Chaucer's age was either sounded or dropt indifferently. That he had of himselfe suche fantasie. And whan he was from every mann'is sight With softe voice he of his lady dere. why he might not have said the very same in an appropriate conversation. "And of himselfe imaginid he ofte To ben defaitid. Somwhat his woful herte for to light. Alas! and there I toke of her my leve And yond I saw her to her fathir ride. what even in the colloquial language of elegant and unaffected women. What may it be? who can the sothe gesse. Ther as Creseide out rode a ful gode pass. The final e. and passion. and yet so worded. out-cast from ally joie. and that men saidin softe. That absent was. that the reader sees no one reason either in the selection or the order of the words. And steal.of this style. or measure. pale and woxin lesse Than he was wonte. For sorow of whiche mine hert shall to-cleve. I would then venture to ask. image. And made a songe of words but a fewe. and that thei saien should. or the purpose of more or less solemnity may require. gan sing as ye may here: * * * * * * . both with respect to the final e and to the accentuation of the last syllable. I might her sene agen come in to Troie! And to the yondir hil I gan her Bide. As ye have herde: suche life gan he to lede As he that stode betwixin hope and drede: For which him likid in his songis shewe Th' encheson of his wo as he best might. I am right sory. Had of him routhe. (who are the peculiar mistresses of "pure English and undefiled. Alas! Fro hennis rode my blisse and my solas As woulde blisful God now for his joie. Why Troilus hath al this hevinesse? And al this n' as but his melancolie. There are not a few poems in that volume. We ourselves still use either "beloved" or "belov'd" according as the rhyme. at which he lived. that past him by the wey.

but likewise as a striking example and illustration of an assertion hazarded in a former page of these sketches namely. which distinguishes too many of our more recent versifiers. whan thou art hornid newe. if al the world be trewe!" Another exquisite master of this species of style. And narrow shreds Of lists.This song. Leaving the path the greater part do go. The first is a sonnet. ful Bone He fil agen into his sighis olde And every night. so I myself do muse. snarled ruffs. is George Herbert. . Why in this sort I wrest invention so. Which. when he thus songin had. and then I am in pain To think how to unthink that thought again. which I have chosen not only for the present purpose. and expression of the thoughts. where the scholar and the poet supplies the material. The latter is a riddle of words. wound and woven. Are my torn meditations ragged clothing. The one reminds me of an odd passage in Drayton's IDEAS As other men. indeed. but the perfect well-bred gentleman the expressions and the arrangement. the other in the most fantastic language conveying the most trivial thoughts. and. in some editions. The second is a poem of greater length. And said: I wis. O how my mind Is gravell'd! Not a thought. annexed to it. Knots. I shall extract two poems. a connected series of poems in imitation of Herbert's TEMPLE. Loose broken tufts Of twists. I shall be glad. Immediately after these burlesque passages I cannot proceed to the extracts promised. shape a suit for nothing: One while I think. the one conveying the most fantastic thoughts in the most correct and natural language. VIRTUE. number. his TEMPLE. As from the nature of the subject. and the too frequent quaintness of the thoughts. that the characteristic fault of our elder poets is the reverse of that. That I can find. or SACRED POEMS AND PRIVATE EJACULATIONS are Comparatively but little known. I will resolve you: I am lunatic! [72] The other recalls a still odder passage in THE SYNAGOGUE: or THE SHADOW OF THE TEMPLE. He stode the bright moone to beholde And all his sorowe to the moone he tolde. And why these giddy metaphors I use. But's ravell'd All to nought! Short ends of threds. without changing the ludicrous tone of feeling by the interposition of the three following stanzas of Herbert's. equally admirable for the weight. as was his wonte to done. the former an enigma of thoughts. and for the simple dignity of the language. a fastidious taste should object to the latter half of the sixth line. Unless.

A Lord I had. within. And all must die. eternal hopes and fears. sit down. And thou must die. Blessings beforehand. so calm. so bright. ties of gratefulness. wherein did fall A stream of blood. of whom some grounds. I fear. But you shall hear.Sweet day. Afflictions sorted. The servant instantly. so cool. But he (I sigh to say) Look'd on a servant. then schoolmasters Deliver us to laws. And wash'd. they send us bound To rules of reason. your love Will more comply than help. I hold for two lives. and was not denied. or (which is one) Than I myself. which may improve. Parents first season us. Bibles laid open. whose hue angry and brave Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye Thy root is ever in its grave. And have good cause: there it was dipt and dyed. as I one eventide . the tale is long and sad And in my faintings. And clean and fair. sorrow dogging sin. ye have your closes. The bridal of the earth and sky. and both lives in me. The sound of Glory ringing in our ears Without. Better than you know me. Yet still ask'd pardon. where sweets compacted lie My music shews. and wrung: the very wringing yet Enforceth tears. with what care hast thou begirt us round. seiz'd on my heart alone. millions of surprises. And threw it in a font. The dew shall weep thy fall to-night. "Your heart was foul. A box. Dear friend. LOVE UNKNOWN. who did know his eye. full of sweet days and roses. Lord. Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in. THE BOSOM SIN: A SONNET BY GEORGE HERBERT. anguish of all sizes. Sweet rose. I presume. which issued from the side Of a great rock: I well remember all. After my heart was well. our shame. For thou must die. To him I brought a dish of fruit one day. And have. Quitting the fruit. And in the middle placed my heart. more than my lease will bear." Indeed 'tis true. Pulpits and Sundays. Angels and grace. Yet all these fences and their whole array One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away. our consciences. holy messengers. Sweet spring. I did and do commit Many a fault.

Who took my guilt upon him. my heart did stay behind. tender quick. "The font did only what was old renew "The caldron suppled what was grown too hard: "The thorns did quicken what was grown too dull: "All did but strive to mend what you had marr'd. But all my scores were by another paid. Though my lips went. I did fear. soon I fled Unto my house. A friend did steal into my cup for good. "For aught I hear. so that when I pray'd. Friend. ev'n with holy blood. "Truly. To warm his love. "Your heart was dull. grew cold. I fear. "Wherefore be cheer'd. I found a callous matter Began to spread and to expatiate there: But with a richer drug than scalding water I bath'd it often. I fear. could my heart not break. while many drank bare wine. So I went To fetch a sacrifice out of my fold." CHAPTER XX . Mark the end. where to repair the strength Which I had lost. which I did thus present. and praise him to the full "Each day. and thereon A boiling caldron. The greatness shew'd the owner. Ev'n taken inwardly. Dear. But as my heart did tender it. When with my pleasures ev'n my rest was gone? Full well I understood who had been there: For I had given the key to none but one: It must be he." Indeed a slack and sleepy state of mind Did oft possess me.(I sigh to tell) Walk'd by myself abroad. I saw a large And spacious furnace flaming. I would say thorns. the man Who was to take it from me. And threw my heart into the scalding pan. slipt his hand. which. your Master shews to you "More favour than you wot of. I hasted to my bed: But when I thought to sleep out all these faults. Thinking with that. My heart that brought it (do you understand?) The offerer's heart. "Your heart was hard. But at the length Out of the caldron getting." Indeed 'tis true. (I sigh to speak) I found that some had stuff'd the bed with thoughts. each moment of the week "Who fain would have you be new. Which at a board. and most divine To supple hardnesses. each hour. round about whose verge Was in great letters set AFFLICTION.

next to that of Shakespeare and Milton. or whenever. that the excellence defined and exemplified in the preceding chapter is not the characteristic excellence of Mr. the exceptions in their works being so few and unimportant. and the better half is thine. The praise of uniform adherence to genuine. for instance. Even in the other poems. in a less absolute sense of the word. that a theory. Mr. Thomas Moore. I appear to find more. Wordsworth's critical preface by the purpose and object. would not at once claim as Wordsworthian the little poem on the rainbow? "The Child is father of the Man. having been previously acquainted with any considerable portion of Mr. no comrade Lucy knew." Or in the LUCY GRAY? "No mate. among the minor poems of Mr. as I retrace the ballad line by line That but half of it is theirs. I have no fear in declaring my conviction. A thousand lambs are on the rocks. that it is precluded by higher powers. nay. of all contemporary poets. All newly born! both earth and sky Keep jubilee. if they are taken without this allowance." Or in the IDLE SHEPHERD-BOYS? "Along the river's stony marge The sand-lark chants a joyous song. not only as the best. appears to me of all others the most individualized and characteristic. in which he purposes to be most dramatic. For. Wordsworth's publications. That plaintive cry! which up the hill . who had but studied three or four of Shakespeare's principal plays. To me it will always remain a singular and noticeable fact. The sweetest thing that ever grew Beside a human door. it is his alone. but as the only commendable style. Bowies. though under a feigned name. Wordsworth's style. and having studied them with a full feeling of the author's genius. as to all his later writings. though but of a few lines. Lord Byron. But of the specific excellence described in the quotation from Garve. The thrush is busy in the wood. as in the different dramatis personae of THE RECLUSE. She dwelt on a wide moor." Who. Southey. and more undoubted specimens in the works of others. there are few in which it does not occasionally burst forth. it is clear that he himself is still speaking. attends Mr. logical English is undoubtedly his. whenever he speaks in his own person. laying the main emphasis on the word uniform. They never hear the cry. A similar peculiarity. because I can add with equal sincerity. that I am now interpreting the controverted passages of Mr. or that common to Prose and Poetry. Wordsworth's style. and others.The former subject continued—The neutral style. whose diction. which he may be supposed to have intended. I will dare add that. though in a less degree. would without the name affixed scarcely fail to recognise as Shakespeare's a quotation from any other play. And let it be remembered too. and more than all. The reader might often address the poet in his own words with reference to the persons introduced: "It seems. should have proceeded from a poet. etc. which would establish this lingua communis. and. And carols loud and strong. rather than by the sense which the words themselves must convey. I should certainly include Mr. Those boys with their green coronal. A person of any taste. Herbert. and of our illustrious Laureate. exemplified by specimens from Chaucer.

Between the woods and lofty rocks. And. Both when he heard the eagle's scream. This Stripling. gay. And to the shepherds with their flocks Bring tales of distant lands. And heard the water beat the shore Near where their cottage stood. Beside a lake their cottage stood. with the coming of the tide. is full of change. So beautiful. and strange. The tumult of a tropic sky. Who but a poet tells a tale in such language to the little ones by the fire-side as— "Yet had he many a restless dream. through savage lands Had roamed about with vagrant bands Of Indians in the West. The wind. sportive. This did it when the earth was new. And this for evermore will do. . Might well be dangerous food For him. a Youth to whom was given So much of earth—so much of heaven. For to this lake." I might quote almost the whole of his RUTH. long windings of the hills. and justified The workings of his heart. And drinks up all the pretty rills And rivers large and strong: Then hurries back the road it came Returns on errand still the same. That. Whatever in those climes he found Irregular in sight or sound Did to his mind impart A kindred impulse. with his dancing crest. The great Sea-water finds its way Through long. by night and day. seemed allied To his own powers. Not small like our's. rough or smooth. Come boats and ships that sweetly ride. the tempest roaring high. And when he heard the torrents roar. As long as earth shall last. and bold. a peaceful flood.Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Ghyll. as you have before been told. And such impetuous blood. but take the following stanzas: But. But one of mighty size. And stirring in its bed. And." Need I mention the exquisite description of the Sea-Loch in THE BLIND HIGHLAND BOY.

Fair trees and lovely flowers. Yet in his worst pursuits. received Into the bosom of the steady lake. or the visible scene [73] Would enter unawares into his mind With all its solemn imagery.—who "Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls. a gentle shock of mild surprise Has carried far into his heart the voice Of mountain-torrents.Nor less. and will. Helvellyn far into the clear blue sky Carried the lady's voice!—old Skiddaw blew His speaking trumpet!—back out of the clouds From Glaramara southward came the voice: . I will give three specimens taken with little choice. which they sent Into those magic bowers. Wordsworth. whether in rhyme or blank verse. It would not be easy to open on any one of his loftier strains. With long halloos. its rocks. And Fairfield answered with a mountain tone. —"When I had gazed perhaps two minutes' space. of a style which cannot be imitated without its being at once recognised. like something starting from a sleep. I ween." The second shall be that noble imitation of Drayton [74] (if it was not rather a coincidence) in the lines TO JOANNA. as originating in Mr. The stars had feelings. concourse wild Of mirth and jocund din! And when it chanced. The breezes their own languor lent. constitute hereafter a still larger proportion. That they might answer him. and laughed again! That ancient woman seated on Helm-crag Was ready with her cavern. while he hung Listening. Hammar-scar And the tall Steep of Silver-How sent forth A noise of laughter. That pauses of deep silence mocked his skill." But from Mr. The beauteous forms of nature wrought. and echoes loud Redoubled and redoubled. The first from the lines on the BOY OF WINANDER-MERE. and that uncertain heaven. and most like the author. and shout again. which already form three-fourths of his works. The Rock. beheld That ravishment of mine.—from these. needs must have their share Of noble sentiment. I trust. For those. looking in my eyes. and screams. Took up the Lady's voice. to feed voluptuous thought. and more in proportion as the lines are more excellent. Wordsworth's more elevated compositions. who may happen to have been less familiar with his writings. southern Lougbrigg heard. That sometimes there did intervene Pure hopes of high intent For passions linked to forms so fair And stately. and laughed aloud.—And they would shout Across the watery vale. Its woods. Then sometimes in that silence. that does not contain examples of this. it would be difficult and almost superfluous to select instances of a diction peculiarly his own. Joanna.

That for a tranquil Soul the Lay was framed. The silence that is in the starry sky. Love had he found in huts where poor men lie. and still less the breaks and transitions." The words themselves in the foregoing extracts. Is the longing of the Shield— Tell thy name. His daily teachers had been woods and rills. to the Estates and Honours of his Ancestors. might well be dangerous food to him. where'er thou be. if we except a few misadventurous attempts to translate the arts and sciences into verse? In THE EXCURSION the number of polysyllabic (or what the common people call. the Shepherd. Like a glory from afar. ———"Now another day is come. The sleep that is among the lonely hills. Like a re-appearing Star. etc. thou trembling Field!— Field of death. in his power. as the actions of a living and acting power? Or have represented the reflection of the sky in the water. Groan thou with our victory! Happy day. the tumult of a tropic sky. Fitter hope. as "That uncertain heaven received into the bosom of the steady lake?" Even the grammatical construction is not unfrequently peculiar. as "The wind. in proportion to the number and variety of an author's conceptions. And hath buried deep his book. the tempest roaring high." There is a peculiarity in the frequent use of the asymartaeton (that is. soothed. Armour rusting in his halls On the blood of Clifford calls.' exclaims the Lance! Bear me to the heart of France.— 'Quell the Scot. He hath thrown aside his crook. Would any but a poet—at least could any one without being conscious that he had expressed himself with noticeable vivacity— have described a bird singing loud by. are. And so must it needs be. as the boys "with their green coronal?"—or have translated a beautiful May-day into "Both earth and sky keep jubilee!"— or have brought all the different marks and circumstances of a sealoch before the mind. To his ancestors restored. Was softened into feeling. sufficiently common for the greater part. dictionary) words is more than usually great.—But in what poem are they not so. Mailed and horsed. long compelled in humble walks to go.—But are those words in those places commonly employed in real life to express the same thought or outward thing? Are they the style used in the ordinary intercourse of spoken words? No! nor are the modes of connections. and nobler doom. a youth to whom was given. and mighty hour. no doubt. First shall head the flock of war!" "Alas! the fervent harper did not know. and his solicitude to express them with precision. When our Shepherd. and tamed.And Kirkstone tossed it from its misty head!" The third. Who. I take from the SONG AT THE FEAST OF BROUGHAM CASTLE. the . which is in rhyme. with lance and sword. upon the restoration of Lord Clifford. "The thrush is busy in the wood?"—or have spoken of boys with a string of club-moss round their rusty hats.

From the sphere of my own experience I can bring to my recollection three persons of no every-day powers and acquirements. who yet have confessed to me. I affirm. a youth"). nor do I even think it such. for their own independent weight or beauty. Wordsworth's poetic compositions all. all being in the same case and governing or governed by the same verb) and not less in the construction of words by apposition ("to him. without reference to the poem in which they are found. who had read the poems of others with more and more unallayed pleasure. that from no modern work had so many passages started up anew in their minds at different times. that a literal adherence to the theory of his preface would exclude. or several sentences used grammatically as single words.omission of the connective particle before the last of several words. were there excluded from Mr. two thirds at least of the marked beauties of his poetry must be erased. In short. that from no contemporary writer could so many lines be quoted. the striking passages form a larger proportion of their value. because the pleasure received from Wordsworth's poems being less derived either from excitement of curiosity or the rapid flow of narration. For a far greater number of lines would be sacrificed than in any other recent poet. as poets. but merely as matter of fact. and had thought more highly of their authors. I do not adduce it as a fair criterion of comparative excellence. and as different occasions had awakened a meditative mood. .

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